The U.S government will for the first time make public thousands of complaints it receives each year about safety problems with various products.
The complaints compilation will be launched online in March by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and has been hailed by consumer advocates as a resource that will revolutionise the way people make buying decisions.
Major manufacturing and industry groups have raised concerns about the public database, saying it may be filled with fictitious claims against their brands. Business leaders say that the database opens brands up to competitors or others with political motives to post inaccurate claims.
The new system was created as part of a landmark consumer product safety law passed by Congress in 2008. The CPSC already collects reports of defective products from a wide range of sources, including consumers, health-care providers, death certificates and media accounts.
But most of that information is shielded from public view. Until now, the only way for consumers to access safety complaints is to file a public-records request with the CPSC, a process that can take months or years. Under the new system, a complaint filed by a consumer will be posted for anyone to read within 15 days.
It is not known whether the online resource will be rolled out to the UK.
Research published yesterday from law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain showed the number of products recalled in the UK because of fault or health risks rose in 2010 to a new high. There were 229 product recalls in the 12 months to November 2010, rising from 205 in the previous year.